One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,416 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             



Zimbel Records

Man-Ching ‘Donald’ YU (b. 1980)
Illusions: Music of Man-Ching ‘Donald’ Yu
Hell and Heaven for piano (2003) [06.18]
Fantasy on ‘The Lady of Shallot’ for piano (2003) [06.39] haos’ for piano (2002) [04.45]
Uncertainty for piano (2004) [03.45]
Sonata No. 1, ‘Grand Concert Fantasy’ (2000) for piano [08.57]
Five Japanese Lyrics for soprano and piano (2001) [13.17]
Sonnet No. 104 for mezzo-soprano and piano (2002) [03.02]
Illusion for oboe and piano (2003) [05.10]
Dark Rhapsody for cello and piano (2003) [04.13]
Five Miniatures for Piano (2001) [04.39]
Sonata No. 2, ‘Humoresque’ for piano (2000) [07.10]
Man-Ching ‘Donald’ Yu, (piano)
Kristi Foster, (soprano)

Xia Heng, (mezzo)
Euridice M. Alvarez Izcoa, (oboe)

Jeremy Shih, (cello)
No recording dates or venues provided



Man-Ching ‘Donald’ Yu was born in Hong Kong in 1980, where he received his musical training. Yu started his training as a concert pianist at the age of 10. At age 16, he made his debut as a soloist with Pan Asia Symphony Orchestra under the baton of his mentor Dr. Yip Wai Hong, which whom he also studied. In 2004, he earned his Bachelor's Degree of Music in Piano Performance from Baylor University where he studied with Krassimira Jordan. Yu also studied advanced composition with Scott McAllister and orchestral conducting with Stephen Heyde. In the summer of 2000, he received training in piano performance at Vienna's Bösendorfer International Piano Academy in Austria.

Donald Yu is prolific composer with more than eighty pieces in various genres including piano works, chamber music, art songs, choral music, orchestral works, concertos and electronic music. Yu's earlier works can be classified as ‘neo-classical’ and ‘neo-romantic’ in style. However, he began to explore serialism, abstract experimentation and other sorts of eclectic approaches in his recent works. Hu’s major works include: Concerto for Horn and Orchestra (2001), Symphonic Poem: Dreamscapes (2002), Black Hole (2002); for piano: Sonata No. 1-5 ( 2000-2004), Uncertainty (2004). The chamber music and art songs include: Nocturne for Flute and Piano (2005), Illusion for Oboe and Piano (2003), Dark Rhapsody for Cello and Piano (2003) and the Five Japanese Lyrics for Soprano and Piano (2001).

Donald Yu teaches in Hong Kong. Since 2005, he has been the artistic director of the Hong Kong Integrated Arts Association. Yu is the composer-in-residence of the Crossover and the Hong Kong Cosmopolitan Youth Orchestra. He continues to study composition with Dr. Christopher Keyes and choral conducting with Mr. Andrew Cheung. Moreover, he has received commissions from various prominent performers and organisations.

The opening score on this release is Hell and Heaven for piano which provides an agitated sound world that represents the elements of Hell and Heaven fighting for dominance. The heavy mood builds to an explosive climax at point 02.00 where there is a welcome section of relative calm. The piano work the Fantasy on The Lady of Shallot’ which was inspired by the poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson is presented in three connected movements. The final section where the Lady’s life starts to fade is splendidly written.

The Sonata No. 4, Chaos’ for piano represents the disorder and unpredictability of the universe. In the piano work Uncertainty, the repeated rhythmic patterns convey a feeling of certainty rather than the uncertainty that the title suggests. The Piano Sonata No. 1, Grand Concert Fantasy’ marks a change of mood utilising neo-classical and neo-romantic harmonies that parody the worlds of Schubert and Schumann. In the Five Japanese Lyrics for soprano and piano the unsteady soloist Kristi Foster is unflatteringly caught and sounds as if she is stood in the recording studio doorway.

The engaging short Sonnet No. 104 for mezzo-soprano and piano is far better recorded than the earlier soprano songs. Xia Heng the mezzo is a rich and expressive soloist. For oboe and piano Illusion was inspired by quantum physics. The work is more accessible than the title may suggest and the oboist Euridice M. Alvarez Izcoa displays dazzling virtuosity with a pleasing tone. The mood of the score to Dark Rhapsody for cello and piano is dark and foreboding. Cellist Jeremy Shih gives a fine performance; which I guess he didn’t find too taxing.

In the Five Miniatures for Piano each of the five sections represents a different state: energy, anger, calm and serenity, agitation and liveliness. The final work on the release is the Sonata No. 2, Humoresque for piano. This mainly lyrical, neo-classical score contains some fine moments. The composer plays the piano on all the scores presented on this disc and performs with authority and precision.   

The sound quality on this Zimbel Records release is serviceable, with the exception of the disappointingly recorded soprano on the Five Japanese Lyrics. The presentation is poor. There are no texts provided for the songs, the Five Japanese Lyrics are not indexed separately and it is the only work without any background notes. Furthermore, the recording venue and the dates have also been omitted.

These are interesting short scores that are reasonably appealing and always accessible. There are some enjoyable moments but not enough to tempt me to return.

Michael Cookson


Zimbel Records




Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat



Recordings of the Month


From Ocean’s Floor


Conner Riddle Songs

Rodzinski Sibelius

Of Innocence and Experience


Symphonies 1, 2, 3

Return to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.